Imagine if, on a day you’re feeling especially inspired, you could write words of encouragement on a piece of paper, fold it up into a paper place, and launch it across the globe to one stranger who can use a lift.
Or if, on an especially uninspired day, you could press a button and a paper plane with encouraging words lands on your desk.
That’s the basic concept of Youpendo (a play on the word, upendo, which means “love” in Swahili), an app in development by Wilmington’s Artur Zvinchuk and Chahin Aghrim, longtime friends from the same town in Germany who both went to Goldey-Beacom College on soccer scholarships.
“We’ve been roommates, teammates and best friends,” said Zvinchuk, in an interview with Technical.ly.
They’re also startup business partners. Their first app, SmartStudents, is a mobile campus thrift shop that allows college students to buy and sell used items, primarily textbooks. “Our average user saved $350 a year on textbooks,” said Zvinchuk.
Their next app idea is a bit more ambitious: They want to harness the internet for positivity.
It started when Zvinchuk and Aghrim discovered findings that “givers” make up just 25% pf the population. They decided to try an experiment: Every day, they would actively commit to using kindness to make someone’s day by sharing a positive comment with a stranger, whether it was someone in the service industry or someone on the street.
“It was really life-changing,” said Zvinchuk.
So, how does one translate that into the digital social world, which is known to devolve into a toxic cesspool at the drop of a hat?
“It’s relatively simple,” said Zvinchuk. “You open up the app, you go to the camera function, and then the app challenges you with a theme. The theme can be a question such as ‘What are you most grateful for?’ or ‘What brings you peace?'”
You can answer the question with a picture with text or video. Once uploaded, it becomes a “paper plane,” which is sent to a random user using a simple algorithm.
“On the receiving end, you can control when you receive those paper planes.” said Zvinchuk. “A couple of times per day, you can, within a click, receive a paper plane — so whenever you need some inspiration or heartwarming words. On the flipside, whenever you send one, you have the guarantee to receive one within a short period of time as well. And when you receive one, it will show a picture of the person, the name and the location and it will tell you what their question was.”
Receivers can direct message senders if they feel so moved, but it’s not a social media platform — there are no friends or followers, no “likes” beyond a rating system only the sender can see, and, perhaps most importantly, no influencers.
“That’s why your message will only go out to one single person,” said Zvinchuk.
With a random one-to-one format, it’s not a popularity contest based on charisma or looks, and ratings are to be based solely on how the message affected the receiver’s life.
Still, they envision it as a community — and that’s where the final aspect of the app comes in: Ultimately, Zvinchuk and Aghrim want to evolve the concept into a crowdfunding app.
“The crowdfunding space itself has over 200 platforms, and over 80% of that traffic is through external references,” Zvinchuk said. “They do not have an active base. We asked ourselves, ‘Why don’t we create a community full of givers and then leverage that in order to get crowdfunding campaigns to our platform?’ Solely for things such a medical needs, volunteering and education. We asked ourselves, ‘Why is nobody doing that?”
For now, though, Youpendo itself has crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter, preparing beta tests before it launches in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Australia and Germany.-30-